The 5th and last day was not just a parade even if our emotions ran high and made the pedaling quite ginger from the start on. We departed from Mini Israel resort where we were bussed early in the morning. For this ride all the groups were gathered together but started one by one, with enough time separating each group. The slower ones going first and the Challenge group starting last as we are presumed to be the fastest. Our group strength was once again augmented by a good number of fresh local racers and we were assured that we could enjoy fast speed until the lunch stop located at the top of our last truly challenging Long and arduous climb.
The joyful atmosphere continued to rise as we slowly reeled waves after waves of slower riders. We gradually grew into a quarter mile long peloton fast approaching Jerusalem from the south west valleys along the Eim Kerem Street. This colorfully dressed group snaked itself up all the way to Alyn Hospital entrance.
With police escort back and front blasting their sirens and flashing their top lights, we followed the children rolling their special bikes up the toad through an extatic, loud cheering crowd of more than a thousand people. The moment was so intense and emotionally charged that I barely could restrain from sobbing.
Off the bike, we milled around searching for familiar faces, embrassing each other’s in congratulatory hugs. The crowd was thick of well wishers and the kids were handing each rider a medal to honor our performance while all around in various stalls, a large variety of local food was dispensed to every person willing to stand on line. I was too keyed up to eat and intent to reunite with Sue,Jim, and a few of the Challenge New. York riders. We managed to settle down finally and clapped when key members of the staff were called to the podium to be recognized and applauded for the amazing logistic works that facilitated 4 different types of rides through many roads and long distances. The flags of the 13 countries represented in the ride were raised for all to see and a special tribute was given to a sizesble group of young Palestinian partipating in the event for the first time. We cheered the top fund raisers, particularly those who had ridden with us in the Challenge group. The staff of the Hospital did a well orchestrated dance for in gratitude and we could not help to stand and dance with them while it was announced that we had collectively raised over two millions five hundred thousand dollars with still another few months to continue to fundraisers toward the goal of reaching three millions.
The sunset brought Jerusalem cool evening breeze and we finally settled down and dispersed in all directions, in some way separation and yet forever linked by the special bond of a common wish to make a difference for these kids and by the ties created.along the winding road we shared for 500 kilometers.